It’s late and who cares. I’ve got my arm around Beth and she’s hugging me back as we smile and talk to Peter, our oh-so-loveable poet faculty member with a heart of gold and the laugh to back it up. Jen’s at his side wanting to know what next and where to and it’s easy; we say: downstairs to Salvatore’s café and bar!
Already my heart is full of admiration for those who have practiced this art of writing for decades and are here to offer their grace and wisdom. And already my heart is breaking for the beauty of all the journeys each of us will make over the courses of our lives. There is so much greatness to aspire to and yes, there she is, my advisor from the semester sitting barside with a glass of water in her hand.
It’s what I’ve been waiting for. That moment of connection after so much long-distance intimacy. For six months she supported me and understood my path while also raising the bar as just the appropriate measures. There is some kind of love and magic in the way she took me and I will forever call on this time for inspiration and faith in the writing life.
So when she leans in to start the conversation, an eyebrow cocked and a crooked smile across her lips, her voice comes to me in song: “You had a good semester,” she says, but she says it like a wave of sparrows in flight, all of them lifting at once, me holding my breath and holding her gaze, she breaking into full smile and I exhale. Smile back.
There is more. Start sending to top tier literary magazines, she says. They are looking for new, young voices. Prairie Schooner, The Gettysburg Review, The Georgia Review, The Mid-Western Review, Ploughshares. Magazines I’ve always considered untouchable. Magazines, she says, that need to publish my work. Magazines, she says, that agents read and if they like what they see, they hunt you down.
“Imagine that,” I say. “I can’t even imagine what that would feel like.”
“You will,” she says. “You’ll do it. You’ve got it in nonfiction and fiction. Send it to them and keep sending it to them. If it gets rejected more than four times, then revise it, but otherwise, keep on and don’t give up.”
She goes on. And on and on. I tell her the best part about this semester was being able to name my blind spot. That now I can look back and say that I used to write in a way where the events dictated the structure of my work and now the language dictates where a piece will go. To this she smiles and nods, points her finger at me and winks. “But there will come a time when the events dictate what you write, too.”
“There will?” I say.
“Yes. You just haven’t been damaged enough yet.
“I haven’t?” We’re both smiling again, that kind of knowing smile laced with the pain we know is to come and the wisdom we hope will come from it.
“This is a hard life. It’s a life of art. A non-stop enduring. It’s not about reaching the peak. I woe the day I reach a peak. Because there is always more, it is always unfolding. And you understand that. You just wait. Three months after you graduate, maybe six, everything will sink in deeper and settle. You’ll re-live the whole MFA program but with keener vision. And it will show up in your writing even more clearly. You’ve got it kiddo, so keep at it.”
Oh, to be believed in! Oh, those stabbing moments of connection! Oh, happy, grand, undying love for a life worth living!
Today’s pic: Writingbuddies!